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Slow shopping isn’t just organic, it’s good for you.

It’s a lot better than heading to the mall, anyway. Holiday highway traffic and box store crowds are hard on your health. Take a look at Black Friday, with its long tradition of Cabbage Patch Kid stampedes and Tickle Me Elmo crazes. This year shoppers didn’t hit stores in their usual rabid fashion, though. Black Friday sales rose only 0.5 percent higher in 2009, even as Americans spent $10.66 billion the day after Thanksgiving. Cyber Monday brought up online purchases by 14% from 2008, indicating people stayed indoors after turkey day, pointing-and-clicking.

Let Oakland suggest a more festive alternative. Whether you wore black or plaid last Friday, this week bring out the green; find holiday gifts made and sold in Oakland. You’ll get out, stretch your legs (earning you an egg nogg) and see the streets decked out in holiday decor. Crisp air and sparkling lights beckon more brightly than the glow of a computer screen.

In a time of year when instances of road ragers and QVC sales increase, shopping locally will lead you to the perfect gift in little time. And it will help keep your neighbors in business. Here are some spots to check out…

December 5–6:

Holidayland Reception
Blank Space and Compound galleries continue their Paul Bunyan-themed artist sale, featuring the artwork of over 100 local artists, designers and craftspeople. In case you missed the sale launch last week, stop by for Oakland Art Murmur this Friday and take your picture with Paul’s ox Babe; your $5 mug shot goes to support Oakland high schools. Also in store for First Friday are tamales by Tina Tamale of La Borinquena. Sip on Mexican Hot Chocolate, munch on a green bean tamale and peruse the fine art for sale. Emily Sevier creates ornaments to wear on site.
Reception: Fri., Dec. 4, 6 p.m.–10 p.m., Sale through Dec. 20, Blankspace Gallery, 6608 San Pablo Ave., 510-547-6608,

CCA Holiday Fair
Students and alumni of the California College of the Arts, will turn the campus into an arts bazaar Saturday morning. Have your pick of original paintings, jewelry, textiles, paper media and more. As you browse, enjoy complimentary jazz and treats.
Sat., Dec. 5, 11 a.m.–2:40 p.m., California College of the Arts 5212 Broadway,,

Piedmont Avenue Tree Lighting Ceremony & Holiday Stroll
Merchants along one of the city’s oldest business districts show some holiday flair for the shopping season. L’Amyx sells its quality teas (and accoutrements) at a 10–25 percent discount, and feature musician Michael Grandi plays jazz guitar and Cascada de Flores some Cuban folk tunes from 6 p.m.–10 p.m. The tree lighting ceremony (one of three scheduled in Oakland this week) begins the festivities, near the clock tower towering over the Mexican-American diner, J’s Hamburger & Such.
Sat., Dec. 5, 5 p.m. to closing, 41st St. and Piedmont Avenue,

Annual Pottery and Craft Sale
Studio One Art Center offers the best of both worlds during the giving season: gifts and a good cause. Purchase any art piece and all the proceeds go to fund Oakland’s youth programming.
Sun., Dec. 6, 12 p.m.–4 p.m., 365 45th St., 510-597-5027,

Fourth Annual Holiday Reception & ArtWalk
Back in the days when corporate plants dominated the landscape, the factory workers used to jangle their pay in-pocket, earning the neighborhood the name “Jingletown.” These days the arts drive the industry here instead of Ford Motor Company, and the products are more climate-friendly. Don’t miss photographer Jan Watten‘s portraits, Sarah Swell‘s metal-wrought jewelry or the Institute of Mosaic Art, whose gorgeous tile murals tag the warehouses on Chapman Street. Download an ArtWalk map here.
Reception: Fri., Dec. 4, 6 p.m.–9 p.m.; Gallery 4:20, 420 Peterson St.; ArtWalk: Dec. 5–6, 12–13, 11 a.m.–6 p.m., when you’ve reached the intersection of Peterson and Ford streets, you’re in the epicenter of ArtWalk,

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December 12–13:

Holiday Buy Night
Pro-local Oakland Unwrapped and Oakland Grown are just two of the merchant organizations sponsoring this “Mall-ternative” to box store shopping. Products at this evening fair have more variety than a box of See’s candy, with everything from candles to kayaks for sale. Linden Street Brewery keeps customers warm with the launch of its Bleeding Heart Lager, a name that characterizes the most die-hard of Oaklanders.
Dec. 10–11, 5 p.m.–10 p.m., Jack London Market, 55 Harrison St.,

Holiday Gifty Art Sale
The Crucible, largely responsible for the upsurge in the Oakland’s art scene, hosts more than 70 Bay Area artisans for this annual gift fair. Each booth standing on their 56,000 square foot space holds new surprises without the high retail prices. Also, sale-goers see demonstrations of what makes the Crucible tick year-round; glass blowing, metal casting and blacksmithing demonstrations wow crowds (11 a.m.–3 p.m.), between live performances and Santa’s appearance (1 p.m.).
Dec. 12–13, 10 a.m.–4 p.m., 1260 7th St.,

Winter Arts Fair
Join Mercury 20 gallery to select artfully rendered pottery, mixed media, tote bags, jewelry and more. One of the several artists to participate is Chela Fielding, who brings her mixed media to the sale. One of her installation pieces, the charming and stark “Memory Drawers,” was pictured in a book called “Memory Boxes” by Anna Corbin. The hidden objects give the work a nostalgic feel, like a well-loved advent calendar. No chocolate Santa Clauses here, though. Cheer and refreshments however will be served.
11 a.m.–5 p.m., 25 Grand Ave., 510-701-4620,

Second Annual Temescal Holiday Skate & Stroll
The outdoor ice skating rink takes center stage at this neighborhood fair, with sales proceeds benefiting Good Cents for Oakland and the Emerson School. Once you’ve reprised “The Nutcracker” on ice, peek into the charming stores in the Temescal. All weekend long, hear carolers and dunk candy canes in hot chocolate. On Sunday, artist Mark Brest van Kempen unveils his city-sponsored art series—“Views of the Greenbelt”—sculptures that reflect the flora and fauna of the Rockridge-Temescal neighborhoods.
Dec. 12–13, 12:30 p.m.–4:30 p.m., Telegraph Avenue and 49th Street,

Local Love
Manifesto Bicycles is just one of the retailers spicing up 40th Street for holiday consumption. On Saturday it fetes 40th Street with the Local Love collective, a band of block merchants, including the Rowan Morrison Gallery, 1-2-3-4 Go! Records and the city’s premier mag shop: Issues.
Dec. 12, 6 p.m.–9 p.m., 40th Street and Broadway, 510-595-1155,

Fourth Annual Holiday Reception & ArtWalk
Back in the days when corporate plants dominated the landscape, the factory workers used to jangle their pay in-pocket, earning the neighborhood the name “Jingletown.” These days the arts drive the industry here instead of Ford Motor Company, and the products are more climate-friendly. Don’t miss photographer Jan Watten‘s portraits, Sarah Swell‘s metal-wrought jewelry or the Institute of Mosaic Art, whose gorgeous tile murals tag the warehouses on Chapman Street. Download an ArtWalk map here.
ArtWalk: Dec. 5–6, 12–13, 11 a.m.–6 p.m., when you’ve reached the intersection of Peterson and Ford streets, you’re in the epicenter of ArtWalk,

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Out-of-town & Ongoing:

Renegade Craft Fair
Oaklandish represents The O in SF with its line of pop-historical wear. This homegrown outfit makes the best threads for those tapped into Oakland’s cultural underbelly. And Oaklandish is just one of hundreds more Bay Area vendors setting up shop at Fort Mason, which hosted the wildly successful Slow Food Festival two summers ago. Renegade’s combination of small businesses and big markets provide ample tasting of the region’s indie art.
Dec. 19–20, 11 a.m.–7 p.m., Fort Mason Center, Herbst Pavilion, San Francisco

Berkeley Holiday Artisans Open Studios
This recurring gallery crawl has an Oakland Art Murmur feel, and this winter it comes in holiday dressing. A self-guided tour leads you through every type studio shop and material imaginable, from leather to glass to semi-precious stones.
Dec. 5–6, 12–13, 19–20, Berkeley, 510-845-2612,

Holiday Warehouse Sale
Fair trade goods are in abundance at this warehouse sale. It’s hosted by the World of Good, an organization and think-tank that works to improve living conditions for women living on less than $2 a day. World of Good helps millions of women and adolescent girls in the developing world. You can help by purchasing a gift at the sale; items are as little as $5 and discounts as great at 90%.
Dec. 5–6, 9 a.m.–6 p.m., 6315 Doyle St., Emeryville,

Oakland Artisan Marketplace
For those who miss this year’s slow shopping events, swing by this marketplace year-round. Each weekend Oakland artisans open up their folding tables and display their wares. More often than not, you’ll find Paula Chan among the vendors; her line includes handcrafted jewelry and frame-worthy cards and she’s always working on something new.
Fri., 10 a.m.–4 p.m. at Frank Ogawa Plaza; Sat., 10 a.m.–6 p.m. at Jack London Square; Sun., 10 a.m.–5 p.m. at Jack London Square,

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A few days ago, I caught a squirrel breaking and entering my house. The first glance I caught of him was his tail. I opened my bedroom window after burning some incense; it could’ve been the smoke that made me think it was a Davy Crockett hat on my windowsill. But then a head popped up, and a squirrelly arm reached for the window. Now as a kid I admired Snow White for her animal magnetism but I wasn’t about to let a potentially rabid animal into the house. So I spooked him just as his paw gripped the sash.

Crime in the Glenview isn’t anything the Chronicle can crow about, as much as they like to run stories about Oakland violence. Squirrel gangs (jumping on the trees, wrestling on my roof) are more prominent here than hardened, human criminals. The neighborhood is known to the Oakland Police Department as Beat 16Y, and last month we had a total of 22 “incidents.” These included 5 burglaries, 5 robberies and 1 battery. The most reported crime was auto theft and burglaries, which totaled 11. Not a whole lot considering that the city at large reports roughly 100 incidents per day. Oakland Crimespotting maps out each occurrence on the Glenview beat and others on its site. They use data released from CrimeWatch, the city’s community crime mapping database. I’m on the fence as to whether this information makes me safer. I know my Honda is one of the more popular models to steal, so I use The Club and hope for the best.

Even if the G’view is relatively safe, I do move around all parts of the city. And there are times when my hair stands on end in the most bustling of places. I felt this atmospheric tension the day a guy pulled a knife on me in Downtown Oakland, across the street from where Chauncey Bailey would fall years later. I had just picked up Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” at Holmes Books and saw a man hunched against a streetlight next to my car. Just as I passed him street-side, he whipped out a blade. I could sense he was drugged out. So I ran around him and got away…only to have my brakes fail and a near-miss with a cyclist. Ah, the memories.

My most recent brushes with violence are the raccoon fights in my backyard. They tumble along the side of the house, crawl under the deck at night, and toss empty snail shells through a hole into the basement. I try to share the neighborhood with the wildlife. As for less-than fuzzy elements, I’m considering a self-defense class due to start in February. Therapist and social activist Helen Greico has taught more than 10,000 people moves like how to disarm an assailant, and will lead another course in Berkeley. She’s worked for N.O.W. and runs the B.R.A.V.E. organization with her husband. I’m sure her class would teach me to be more assertive in the concrete jungle. I’m not certain that Greico’s “get to the fight first” motto would work with the raccoons, though. They’re more brazen than the squirrels.

Yesterday, T. and I drove down Park Boulevard. and over to West Oakland for The Crucible’s annual Holiday Gifty. As we approached 1260 7th St., I couldn’t help but notice how the warehouse looked similar to the post office buildings on the same block; these and the BART tracks did much to displace the nerve center of West Oakland. But there remain many reasons to visit what is one of the city’s oldest neighborhoods. My favorite Salvadoran restaurant in the city stands across from the train tracks, and a Blues Walk of Fame project—featuring sidewalk plaques of famed musicians who played here when jazz and blues were West Oakland’s biggest export—has received city funding for construction. There’s also a computer game set in the strip’s jazz and blues heyday; you can read my article on U.C. Berkeley’s efforts to recreate a virtual 7th Street here.

Despite the false promises of “urban renewal,” there’s still a creative spark in the neighborhood. The Crucible is one cornerstone of the artistic community, and on Sunday it was packed with local artisans. All the classrooms dedicated to woodworking, glass blowing, blacksmithing and others were set up as temporary boutiques. True to form, metal sculptures could be found. My favorite items were the jewelry. I scored a gift of vintage button earrings for my Secret Santa and earrings for my mom from Paula Chan. Since I couldn’t resist Chan’s necklaces, which string together pearls and Chinese porcelain tiles, I bought myself an early birthday gift.

On our way home from the sale, I could see homemade signs for jewelry shows up and down Park Blvd. This block has been the Glenview’s main drag even before the city was incorporated. The Oakland Tribune described Park as an “artery” in 1925, yet it was a major throughway as early as the 1830s. American loggers lugged saws up into the hills and helped themselves to some of the most ancient Redwoods in the west. Then oxen-drawn carriages hauled the lumber down Park to the estuary. Yesterday, I hauled our Christmas tree down the same road. And since I was eager to get my Noble Fir to water, I didn’t stop to look at the local jewelers’ wares. But hope they’ll resurface again soon. My good friend in the Glenview just had her own in-house show. Her handmade designs, like Chan’s, combine pearls, semi-precious stones and inspiration beads to beautiful effect. You can find her work at